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Researchers map how staph infections alter immune system
Date:7/13/2009

DALLAS July 14, 2009 Infectious disease specialists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have mapped the gene profiles of children with severe Staphylococcus aureus infections, providing crucial insight into how the human immune system is programmed to respond to this pathogen and opening new doors for improved therapeutic interventions.

In recent years, much research has focused on understanding precisely what the bacterium S aureus does within the host to disrupt the immune system. Despite considerable advances, however, it remained unclear how the host's immune system responded to the infection and why some people are apt to get more severe staphylococcal infections than others.

By using gene expression profiling, a process that summarizes how individual genes are being activated or suppressed in response to the infection, UT Southwestern researchers pinpointed how an individual's immune system responds to a S. aureus infection at the genetic level.

"The beauty of our study is that we were able to use existing technology to understand in a real clinical setting what's going on in actual humans not models, not cells, not mice, but humans," said Dr. Monica Ardura, instructor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study available online in PLoS One, the Public Library of Science's online journal. "We have provided the first description of a pattern of response within an individual's immune system that is very consistent, very reproducible and very intense."

The immune system consists of two components: the innate system, which provides immediate defense against infection; and the adaptive system, whose memory cells are called into action to fight off subsequent infections.

In this study, researchers extracted ribonucleic acid from a drop of blood and placed it on a special gene chip called a microarray, which probes the entire human genome to determine which genes ar
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Contact: Kristen Holland Shear
kristen.hollandshear@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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